Thank you for your input to our child and youth mental health research

Helping to provide evidence to support health decisions about children and young people’s mental health is a major priority for Cochrane Common Mental Disorders. In this article we share an update about the progress being made by our Children and Young People’s Mental Health Satellite in setting the agenda for our work in this crucial area. 

Over the next five years we will expand the number of reviews we publish that tackle questions about children and young people’s mental health. To do this we have set up a satellite of our Cochrane Review Group focused on Children and Young People’s Mental Health, which is based at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. We want our new reviews to be shaped by young people and people who work and support children and young people with lived experience of mental health difficulties. To help to achieve this our satellite has been leading on a series of priority setting activities to co-produce, with young people, the questions our reviews ask.

The team are now about halfway through this process and all those involved in the project would like to sincerely thank people for their participation and thoughtful input so far. 

The first activity completed was a short anonymous survey, we encouraged young people over 16, and anyone who supports young people’s mental health to complete this and promoted the survey via social media channels and through our partner organisations. The online survey was part of the priority setting project being funded by a catalyst grant from the Royal Society Te Apārangi and led by the University of Auckland, in collaboration with Orygen - the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health (an affiliate of the University of Melbourne), the University of Otago, and Cochrane Common Mental Disorders (based at the University of York). 

We want to thank everyone who participated in our 2019 online survey – Establishing research uncertainties in the area of child and youth mental health. We received responses from 290 participants, across the globe, with more than 60% from Aotearoa New Zealand. Most of respondents were female (>80%) and approximately 35% were young people aged between 16-29 years. It was encouraging to see that more than 45% of our respondents were people who had lived experience of mental health difficulties. 

Respondents were asked to rate and then rank the most important mental health difficulties related to child and youth mental health. 

Among both the youth and adult respondents, the top-3 mental health priorities were:

  • Suicide
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Self-harm and eating disorders were also highly rated priorities.

The survey also collated responses to a series of open-ended questions. The answers were analysed using a thematic analysis approach and some important research themes emerged as areas of research uncertainties related to child and youth mental health (listed below). 

  • How can everyone get timely access to services?
  • How can young people know about the services that are available and decide what they need?
  • What can be done to ensure that those who are supporting/working with young people are doing this in the best way? 
  • How can current services that support mental health and wellbeing be made more culturally responsive and child and youth-friendly?
  • What can be done to ensure that young people feel respected and valued (and don’t feel marginalised and excluded)?
  • What is the role of parents/family/whānau (extended family) in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of young people?
  • How can early life experiences be improved, and wellbeing supported throughout childhood and youth?
  • How can communities better support the mental health and wellbeing of young people?
  • How can use of online information or platforms (such as social media) influence mental health and wellbeing?
  • How can education settings (schools, universities, training colleges, alternate education settings) play a role in improving mental health and wellbeing?

For each of these research themes specific research questions were identified (a total of 96 questions across all the themes). 

The team are very grateful to the survey participants who helped us achieve our first objective of establishing research uncertainties in the area of child and youth mental health. As a next step, we would like to identify the top-most important research priorities out of these themes and questions.  To do this, we have recently published another more detailed survey that builds on the information from the first where we are asking respondents to help us prioritise the research questions that have been identified. 

Please participate in the new survey.

Alongside the online surveys, the team have also conducted focus groups and a series of workshops with young people and partner organisations. The discussions have been really productive providing the project team with an opportunity to reflect on how we want to conduct our research related to children and young people's mental health. The graphic below provides a visual summary of the nine principles we will apply when developing Cochrane Reviews focused on children and young people. 


What is humbling in all the work we do is the input we receive from the young people themselves. We are committed to young people having a voice in what we do. The illustration below presents some of the top priority questions identified by one group of young people who participated in a workshop associated with this project in August last year. 

From all of us at the Cochrane Common Mental Disorders – Children and Young People Satellite, we would like to thank you for partnering with us to help improve child and youth mental health. We are looking forward to continuing this important work in 2020.